User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are two interrelated and often interchanged terms that you are likely to come across when you are planning your website. UX and UI take the user into account—who is using your site and what do they need to accomplish while they are there? You could spend years studying the nuances of each and still not be an expert but a basic familiarity is essential and, as you’ll see, recognizing great UI and UX is actually quite intuitive.
User Interface: The Stage
You can’t talk about UX without first discussing UI, which refers to the way in which humans interact with computers and the way your customer interacts with your website. The interface is the tool box we use to control a computer or navigate a website. It is the keyboard, the mouse, the touch screen buttons, the drop down menus and the graphics; essentially the stage on which you set the User Experience.
The UI of a website should be clean and clear, intuitive and familiar, consistent and forgiving. Good web design takes into account the type of device on which your website will be viewed and the different user interfaces that result.
User Experience: The Performance
UX will determine how the user intuits and interprets the feel of your site. The UX design takes theme and audience into account. Who is the user? What will they be expecting? And how does my design align with style of my site and sites like it? It is a performance that web designers work to perfect.
It is the motion it will take to reach a button, the look of that button, the feel of the click of that button, the look of that click, and the emotional response that the user will have to it all. If it sounds like a fine art, that’s because it is. Superior UX is built upon the strong back of a well-designed UI.
The Perfect Host
I like to think of great UX as the perfect host of a dinner party. The host takes great care to create an appealing atmosphere for his guests. He has a clean house. Perhaps he lights some candles and sprays a pleasant scent. He cooks and serves a delicious meal with balanced flavors over several courses and his guests want for nothing. Everything they need, whether it is a glass of wine or a steak knife, is at their fingertips.
The guests are enveloped by their experience at the dinner party. The event is so well executed that it appears effortless and the guests are left with a positive impression and anticipating the next dinner to which they’ll go out of their way to get an invitation.
This is what you want your website’s UX to be: a perfect dinner party. You are asking your customer to open her wallet for you after all; it’ll be to your benefit to assure her that she came to the right house.
What Does a Good UX Look Like for my Website?
You want to give your customer the best experience with the least effort. Brenda Barron, the writer and WordPress enthusiast for www.elegantthemes.com has some great tips including:
Don’t make your customer work for Information:
- Clean navigation menus – make it easy for your customer to find her way around your site.
- Social media icons – prominently place social media icons on your site so that your information can be easily shared.
- Clear calls to action – make sure you have good copywriting (read about it on our blog here) and design that naturally leads your customer, step by step, to your goal conversion (e.g. Purchasing your product)
- Prominent contact and about info – be clear about who you are and where to find you.
Keep it “Above the Fold”
You want your most important information and calls to action to appear on your page without any navigation or scrolling needed. This is called “above the fold”.
Less is More
This is fairly self-explanatory. Take a minimalist approach to your copywriting and to your graphics. Gone are the days of shadow or 3D buttons. Keep your UI flat. This is keeping with today’s preferred aesthetic but also works best for the mobile devices your customer is using more and more to view your site.
Increase Your Site Speed
Also an important point for growing mobile device usage – how quickly your site loads will greatly influence how many potential customers stick around to actually view it!
UX and the Future
User Experience is constantly being re-evaluated and improved upon. Here are some of the most important trends:
Scrolling not Clicking
Scrolling is both more intuitive and more mobile-friendly than clicking and improves a site’s loading time which is a key component in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
You may have already had a Personalized User Exchange experience the last time you visited your favourite online store and the banners flashed with items you had searched on previous days. This is an example of personalized UX. Expect to see much more advanced applications in the future.
A large image or video in the background of your site can get across a message more quickly and more precisely than a big block of text. It is also much easier to digest on the smaller screen of a mobile device. Ask your web designer more about Dynamic Backgrounds and check out some fantastic examples here.
Time to Host your own Dinner Party
Go forth with your new understanding of User Experience and look at your website with a new and intuitive eye.